By Rachel Cosgrove, CSCS, WH Exercise Science Expert
“I’ll come in tomorrow for an extra workout.” “I jog three miles every day.” “I’ve been doing five sets of 20 crunches every night before bed.”
These are all real quotes I have heard from women who, despite having the best of intentions, are sabotaging their fitness with bad (and common!) workout strategies.
Don’t make the same mistakes! Here, the three most common workout mistakes women make—and how to avoid them:
1. Thinking more is better
Many women actually work out too much. By completing workout after workout without allowing for recovery, your body never gets a chance to reboot and your workouts start to suffer in intensity as the week goes on, which leads to overtraining and lacking results. After as little as three consistent weeks without a break, burn out, staleness, and symptoms of overtraining will appear, leading to decreased results from your efforts, according to a study published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.
Instead, work out three to five days a week (performing two to three strength workouts and one to two cardio workouts). Give yourself at least one complete rest day, and switch up your workout between “hard” and “easy” days. That will help your body recover so you get the most from every workout. Work out less, recover, and get results. Done.
2. Staying in your comfort zone
Performing lots of repetitions with light weights and cardio at a steady, comfortable pace tends to be the exercise preference of most women. The problem is that your body will only change if you put a demand on it, taking it out of its comfort zone. Your body is a master adapter. When it gets used to a routine, it becomes more efficient, so it uses less energy. Translation: You burn fewer calories and build less muscle.
Learn to push harder, lift heavier, sprint at a max effort, and dig deep to really push your potential. Don’t be afraid to sweat.
3. Doing the same thing for too long
Your body is smart and is constantly figuring out what you are doing, adapting to whatever demands you put on it in about four to six weeks. So change things up! Studies have shown that doing the same workout over and over can lead to adaptation and, eventually, a plateau in results. Strength training scientists refer to this as the principle of diminishing returns, whereby the nervous system is no longer challenged to adapt.
If you have been running a lot, completely stop running and start lifting weights. If you have been taking spinning, stop spinning and run sprints at the track. Whatever you are doing, stop and do something your body isn’t used to. It is good to take a break from an activity so you can come back to it later as a new, challenging demand.